Fairy Lights Tarot

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Where oh where do I stand on fairy tarot decks? Or faerie tarot decks. Or maybe even fae tarot decks. I just never know. As a working male who ventures out into the real world every day in suit and tie shouldn’t I really be eschewing them? Or at least if I do have any fairy decks might it not be better if I kept quiet about them? I (rather guiltily) think sometimes that this should be the case and in all honesty I hadn’t been paying much attention to this particular deck by Lucia Mattioli (the same artist as Tarot of the Secret Forest) and published by Lo Scarabeo. I sort of knew it was going to be published but very often I switch off from that giddy pre-launch obfuscating effervescence that surrounds decks and only give them my full attention once they are available to have, hold and make up my own mind about. This was certainly the case with the Fairy Lights Tarot. However, I was on my way home yesterday and called in at the local esoteric shop and there it was in the cabinet. I had no idea it had already been released and as I always like to support my local shop when I can – plus the experience of buying a deck in a real shop on the spur of the moment is always infinitely more satisfying for me than it coming in the post – I decided to take it home with me.

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My first impression was of an extraordinary homogeneousness of mood and feel. This is a deck that must have been conceived and designed as a whole. It doesn’t feel like a deck with cards that have been ploddingly designed one by one to illustrate somebody else’s system, but rather a deck that is very much a world unto itself, a coherent entirety that has been faceted like a diamond into 78 parts. That feeling of harmonious unity struck me immediately. 78 slices of a haunting, ethereal world. What is unique to this deck (from what I have read) is that all cards have their natural pair and when they appear together in a reading, it gives an added richness, a coupling, a slotting together of halves. I have not had the deck long enough to work out which pairs match up but an example of how it works can be seen below. Part of the wonder of working with this (now shuffled) deck will be seeing cards thrown together randomly and complementing each other. I shall discover the pairs as I go. So there will be many surprises in store.

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What is wonderful about Mattioli’s artwork is how textured it looks, the shadows, washes and application of paint. Some of the tones and smears remind me vaguely of the backgrounds to the Minors in the Haindl deck. A certain muddiness, a backdrop to set the atmosphere, but at the same time you can tell that the artist has an enviable command of her medium. You can see daubing and impasto and blotches and recognise that this is a deck whose artwork is very accomplished. Whether you can read with it or not will very much be a personal decision, as what will govern this deck’s readability for many is more likely to be the fact that it isn’t explicitly Rider Waite Smith in the Minors. Or if it is, I’m not quite detecting it. But I find the Minors exhilarating in their freshness and vivid intuitiveness. There is such a strong mood here that you’d be doing the deck a huge disservice by looking for Rider Waite Smith traits in it. If you want Rider Waite Smith, choose another deck. If you want to luxuriate in something otherworldly, something to unravel  – or maybe what others sniffily call “more of an oracle” – then this deck may be quite an exciting deck for you to work with. It bothers me when a deck gets called more “oracle” simply because it isn’t recognisably Rider Waite Smith. This feels like a tarot deck to me, but certainly of the more experimental variety.

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Then there’s the name. As far as fairy decks go, you don’t get much wispier and diaphanous than the name of this one, the Fairy Lights Tarot.  Unlike the Paulina Tarot – another deck I love – where you can convince yourself it’s not entirely fairy, this one is fairy through and through, despite the fact that the gossamer wing count is actually quite low. Some of the cards, such as the Nine of Pentacles (further up this page) have a pleasingly 1900s fairy feel to them, almost Arthur Rackham, like faded children’s book illustrations. Others feel more timeless. One of the reasons I love this deck is that it reminds me that fairiness doesn’t have to be an exclusively feminine domain. The Emperor, Hierophant, Knights and Kings in this deck have a very male presence and are not at all wispy. There are swirls and rotating clouds of glowing fairy lights which surround the figures in the cards, shafts of light pierce down from above, as in the King of Cups below. The deck is much less murky than the Tarot of the Secret Forest. I loved the dark brambles of the Secret Forest when I first got it, the sense of a mysterious realm beyond the garden gate, but I was never really able to read successfully with it. I found so much of the imagery quite samey. This one feels more varied yet it has the same sense of mystery and I love the booklessness of this deck. Some of the meanings of the LWB appear to show a certain affinity with the Rider Waite Smith cards (e.g Seven of Swords, “taking something that is not yours will never lead to success. Protect yourself against thieves and maintain your own honor as well”) even if the image does not always seem to reflect that. But I think this deck probably works its magic best without any manual or instructions, just the enigmatic imagery. As if we are lost in that world and are trying to make sense of it for ourselves with nobody else giving their version of meanings, because it is such a visual deck, sometimes icey, sometimes airy and exotic (see the camels in the in Two of Wands above, approaching a night time oasis under a scattering shower of fairy lights) but always richly symbolic. There have been quite a few interesting deck releases recently. Only last week I bought the Mibramig Magical Tarot, and I am anxiously awaiting the Illuminati. This deck, the Fairy Lights Tarot stands out as one that I really want to read with, really want to explore, to let my intuition run wild, haul up the heavy anchor of conventional, accepted tarot wisdom and float free awhile.

Middle card shows card backs.

Middle card shows card backs.

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About Le Fanu

Tarot collector in a far off land; loves ghost stories, magick, tarot, wistfulness, spookiness, Victorian spiritism, ectoplasm...
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19 Responses to Fairy Lights Tarot

  1. Carla says:

    It is quite magical, isn’t it. I’m working with my own favourite faery deck for the coming weeks, Tarot of the Sidhe. Also using Froud’s Faeries’ Oracle. This deck reminds me somewhat of the Froud oracle. It’s certainly attractive. I’ll have to give this one some thought, as I usually end up feeling quite tepid about LoScarabeo decks, despite initial excitement. Thanks for the images. It would be nice to read how you feel about it after you’ve worked with it for a time.

    • Le Fanu says:

      Thank you. And this is one that attracts me to work with a while. I have it on my reading table for this week and I have time to sit and work with it every day so we shall see. The Sidhe is quite spectacular isn’t it. One of those fae decks with visionary substance! I love it. Not wispy and gossamer at all…

  2. Alex says:

    This looks like a really lovely deck; despite being a female who loves fairy/faery/faerie mythology, I tend to avoid fey tarot because they can be a bit wish-washy, however I was instantly charmed by the Rackham feel of the 9 of Pentacles. This is one I’ll have to keep an eye out for!

    p.s. As someone who works in an independent esoteric shop, I thank you – never underestimate how highly valued your whims are.

    • Le Fanu says:

      Nothing quite beats the experience of buying a deck and walking out with it. As regards the actual experience and excitement I don’t think any deck that has arrived in the post has ever quite come near it!

  3. BlackSphinx says:

    Finally someone says it – the derisive term “tarocle” really means “doesn’t follow RWS closely enough for me.” I have seen everything called a tarocle at one point or another, from the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn, to the Greenwood, to the Mary-el. If I hear at some point a newbie applying this term to the Thoth, well, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

    Thank you so much for the scans. This deck is stunning! I had been sitting on the fence about whether I should add it to my wishlist or not, but those scans convinced me. I love the blue-gray borders and how they just seem to disappear. I love its vivid jewel-tone colors (other scans I had seen made me afraid it would be primarily pastel and brown). I am especially in love with the King of Wands and his ghostly hounds! The deck is so evocative.

  4. Gregory Stanton says:

    I love Lucia’s art so much — always delightful. I just don’t see why LoS feels the need to decorate all of their decks with weird borders, or worse, editorialize with translations of all the cards. They sidestepped the translations with this one, but the results are ugly. Really, this art is so lovely it should be the focal point of each card.

    • Le Fanu says:

      I suppose you’re right. Yes, if it’s not multi-lingual titles, it’s innovative borders. They could just be simple minimal borders. I guess that’s one of the reasons why you like Dame Fortune’s Wheel. There are very few decks that have minimal borders like that. It’s a nice deck though and I do think the borders are quite unintrusive once they’re on the reading table. Thanks for the visit…

  5. lucia mattioli says:

    vi ringrazio tanto dell’attenzione particolare che avete dedicato al mio lavoro , è raro ricevere una cosi pertinente ed acuta attenzione ,questo me emoziona e mi rende felice , grazie ancora !

    • Le Fanu says:

      I’m afraid I don’t understand Italian but from my knowledge of romance languages, I think that means you’re happy! Thank you for visiting. Your artwork is magical.

    • Carla says:

      I was curious so cut and pasted to Google Translate and got:

      ‘thank you so much that you have devoted particular attention to my work, it is rare to receive such a relevant and acute attention, this excites me and makes me happy, thanks again!’

  6. lucia mattioli says:

    I do not know English and use google translator :)

  7. Tracy says:

    And now a month has passed. How did this deck read for you? I’m very curious.

    • Le Fanu says:

      It reads very well. I can never resist doing two card spreads (not one card, not three cards…) just in case I get a “pair”. I hate saying this (but know of no other way to say it) but it feels more Oracley. Definitely not RWS for me. Others have commented on how they detect RWS elements in it but I find I just want to read it spontaneously, some would say intuitively. It has lots in the card to stimulate thinking. It really is a very special deck with its own very distinct atmosphere. One of LoS’ best offerings I think.

  8. Wulfie says:

    Just stumbled on your site. Awesome! I love tarot and though I no longer do professional readings (tarot burn out) I love working with decks for personal healing and creativity. This deck…well!…on my wish list for the boxed set as of ten seconds ago. lol It’s really lovely and the idea of finding those pairs, omg delicious fun! Thanks.

  9. winter says:

    This review and your posts on AT convinced me to order this deck, my first of 2013, (not bad for July!!) Likewise I have always been attracted to The Secret Forest but the black and white backs put me off. Maybe this artist enjoys decks with a difference, and to me diversity is a good and wonderful thing, where the most exciting discoveries are born, so I shall also reconsider the Secret Forest. I also noted your mention of the Mibramig, when I first saw the new LS catalogue last year that was the one that attracted me the most, so I would love to hear your thoughts. meanwhile I will do some research on AT to see what folk are saying. As always, thanks for the peek into your cabinet and thoughts. To me, your blog has a sense of going through the wardrobe into another world. A real treat!

  10. Kasi says:

    I am very new to tarot and was just bought this deck as my first set of cards by a friend. I don’t have much of the ‘technical’ knowledge as yet, but it’s quite nice as it allows me to be quite intuitive.

    So far with the few readings I’ve done with friends, I’ve found I couldn’t make a lot of sense of the first card or two, but as more get drawn, the cards just seem to fall into place and tell a story. Last night, before bed, I tried doing a couple of spreads but they didn’t make any sense to the question that was asked. I then got quite annoyed with myself, thinking that I was doing it all wrong. Well, I re-shuffled the cards and had another try. The six cards I pulled, starting with The Heirophant, were all about learning, growing, patience and strength. I could only take that as a message!

    The reason I came across your review is because I’d noticed some of the cards looked and felt like ‘pairs’, like they were two halves of the same whole. I thought I’d look it up to see if anyone felt the same. Thank you for your review, it’s been a really useful and insightful read, especially considering I’m a complete newbie! :)

  11. Thank you so much for this amazing review! I’ve been searching for a fae tarot and I think that this is the one! The deck that I feel the most attuned with is Froud’s Faery Oracle- and even though I have a handful of tarot decks that I like, I don’t *love* them in quite the same way. :) I think I’ll give this one a spin… I still see some RWS in these, which is nice, but it’s so very fae in nature. And that 8 of cups is so gorgeous. :) Thanks for the lovely scans.

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